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What are the best team nicknames in Serie A?

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Calcio’s got some funny stories, so let’s get some of them out there.

Benevento Calcio v FC Crotone - Serie A
Metal AF
Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Every time I write out the loanee reports, I look at the nicknames of all the other teams. Some of them are funny. Some of them are cool. Some of them are just plain weird. For space constraints, I’m just picking the funnest nickname for each team.

Atalanta picked up the nickname of la Dea (the goddess) when a merger of local athletic clubs chose to name itself after a mythological lady who was faster than anybody and only lost a race when distracted by Meleager’s golden apples (stop giggling). Her profile is still on the club’s badge.

Benevento are known as the Stregoni (witches) after they put the outline of a witch flying a broom on their badge. This is a reference to the city’s supposed status as the nexus of witchcraft for all of Italy, which officially makes Benevento the most metal team in the world. Sorry, Scandinavia.

Bologna are known as the Veltri (greyhounds). I have no idea why. Maybe they had a team that ran really fast at one point? Anyways, their other nickname of Felsinei just refers to the region of Emilia-Romagna that the city is in.

Cagliari are don’t have any fun nicknames, sadly. The Rossoblu (red-blues), Isolani (islanders), and Sardi (Sardinians) are all pretty obvious, and Casteddu is just the Sardinian name of the city.

Chievo Verona are the Mussi Volanti (flying donkeys), which may be the best nickname in Serie A. Back in the 1990s, local rivals Hellas mocked the long-suffering Chievo fans by saying that Chievo would only attain promotion to Serie A “when donkeys flew.” When they duly won promotion in 2001, the joyous Chievo fans adopted the insult as a badge of pride and have worn it ever since.

Crotone get two entries here because I couldn’t choose just one. They’re called the Pitagorici (Pythagoreans) because the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras established a colony on the island near the city, where his bean-avoiding followers lived with him in contemplation of the universe. Crotone are also called the Squali (sharks) after their badge, which features a pair jumping at a boat. As the city is located right on the Mediterranean, it makes pretty good sense, and the shark is an excellent mascot for just about anybody.

Fiorentina are known as the Gigliati (lilies) after the city crest, which features a lily (actually an iris named iris fiorentina, but whatever). There is debate about why the lily is the symbol of the city; perhaps it’s after the Roman proconsul Fiorinus, who helped found the city in 59 BC during the celebrations of spring (florentia in Latin). Originally a white flower on a red background (hence the lily confusion), the colors were swapped in the late 13th century. After the Guelsphs expelled the Ghibellines from the city in 1289, the latter took the red lily with them. In response, the Guelphs changed the civic symbol to further distance their rivals from the city, and the imagery stuck.

Hellas Verona, like Crotone, get two excellent nicknames. First is the Scaligeri (Scaligers) after the Scaliger family, which ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries. They’re also called the Mastini (mastiffs) after one of the Scaliger symbols; in fact, a couple of the Dukes of Verona were named Mastino, which is just super badass. Who’s going to try to mess with Duke Mastiff?

Inter Milan are called il Biscione (the big grass snake) after the coat of arms of the Visconti family, who ruled Milan from the 11th to the 15th centuries and made it a symbol of the city; it’s also used on the Alfa Romeo logo.

Juventus are known as the Gobbi (hunchbacks) because hunchbacks were considered lucky in Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries; gamblers believed rubbing the hump brought them good luck. That answers the obvious question, but raises so many more (why is a hunchback lucky?). The Bianconeri earned the nickname for numerous, um, unlikely escapes late in matches.

Lazio are called the Biancocelesti (the light blues) for their jerseys and the Aquile (the eagles) because there’s an eagle on their crest. Sorry. They can’t all be fun.

AC Milan are known as the Rossoneri (red-blacks) for their colors, and as the Diavolo (devil) because red and yadda yadda yadda. The fun one here is Casciavit (screwdriver in the Lombardian dialect), which was an early 20th-century reference to Milan fans, who were generally of a working class background as compared to the middle-class fans of Inter. As people who worked with their hands for a living, their intra-city rivals named them after a tool to demonstrate their lower status, but the red side of the city adopted the name with pride and it stuck.

Napoli got their nickname of the Partenopei from Greek mythology. During his voyages, Odysseus sailed near Capri, home of the siren Parthenope. She used her unearthly beautiful voice to convince the hero to come to her, but he ordered his crew to tie him to the mast of his ship so he couldn’t. Heartbroken by her failure, Parthenope jumped into the sea and was drowned. Her body washed up on the mainland, and settlers there named a town in the Bay of Naples in her honor. Dang. That got darker than expected.

AS Roma are often called the Lupi (wolves), but to be more accurate, the club is known as the Lupa (the she-wolf). It’s another Greco-Roman myth: when Romulus and Remus were abandoned to die as infants, a she-wolf happened along and suckled them. After they founded Rome, they honored her with a statue that became a symbol of the city.

Sampdoria are nicknamed the Blucerchiati (blue-circled) for an old uniform. The “-doria” part of the name, though, comes from Genovese admiral Andrea Doria, a 16th-century citizen who was either a patriot and hero or a pirate and mercenary, which is fun.

Sassuolo are the Neroverdi (black-greens) because they wear black. And green.

SPAL are known as the Estensi (easterners) as they were traditionally the team from the eastern side of Ferrara.

Torino is called the Granata (the maroon-reds) for the jersey or Toro (bull), which is the traditional mascot of the city of Turin. Yawn.

Udinese are known as the Zebrette (little zebras) because they wear black and white stripes and were founded after the Juvenuts.

We’ll be back next week with a list of the Serie B teams’ nicknames.